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- October 24, 2005
- Vol. 64
- No. 17
Saddam Stands Trial
After Months in Solitary, the Former Iraqi Dictator Will Soon Emerge to Face His First Charge—for Genocide
In the 22 months since U.S. soldiers captured him, Saddam Hussein has killed time, mostly in solitary confinement, in a makeshift jail near Baghdad's airport, watched over by U.S. guards. Though International Committee of the Red Cross officials have visited nine times, he is allowed few other visitors besides those assigned to interrogate him about his 24-year rule. Lawyers and human rights activists have complained about not having access to Saddam to check on his condition. "The president has not been able to see a lawyer of his own choosing," says Curtis Doebbler, an American attorney working with Saddam's family. This June a group of National Guardsmen assigned to monitor Saddam, 68, revealed that their prisoner spent much of his time reading the Koran, writing poetry and his memoirs on yellow legal pads, snacking on Doritos—by the bag—and, for breakfast, eating Raisin Bran Crunch. (He has expressed a distaste for Froot Loops.) He also joked around with guards and dispensed dating advice. On Oct. 19 Saddam is due to emerge for his long-awaited trial in an Iraqi court. To protect the trial venue from potential insurgent attacks, its location has not been revealed.
2 Where is the rest of his family?
Saddam's notorious sons Uday and Qusay were killed by American forces during a July 22, 2003, raid in the city of Mosul. Two daughters, Raghad and Rana, fled Iraq for Jordan before the U.S. invasion. His wife Sajidah and another daughter, Hala, are believed to be somewhere in the Persian Gulf states. Saddam's youngest son, Ali—born to his second wife, Samira Shahbandar—is reportedly in Lebanon.
3 What is he being charged with?
The ex-dictator and seven other members of his regime are charged with crimes against humanity in connection with the massacre of Shiite Muslims in Dujail—a town north of Baghdad—that left 143 dead after a failed 1982 assassination attempt on Saddam.
4 Why single out that incident?
Although Saddam is linked to thousands of deaths during his rule, Iraqi prosecutors felt the Dujail incident would be the easiest to connect to him. "That we all know that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy is not enough for a court striving to establish proof beyond a doubt," says Tom Malinowski, Washington, D.C., director of Human Rights Watch. "You have to establish a connection between a body in a mass grave and the president of a country."
5 Who are the judges?
The special tribunal hearing the case includes five judges—all Iraqi—who are actively involved in investigating the facts of the case. The lead investigative judge is Ra'id Juhi, 39, a judge who served under Saddam and who has at least 18 investigators working on his behalf. "There was a bit of debate about whether this should be an Iraqi-only tribunal or an international tribunal like the kind prosecuting [Serbian dictator] Slobodan Milosevic," says Malinowski. "The Iraqis decided to go with a national tribunal, The United States was involved in the decision, but the Iraqis are running this."
6 Who is his lawyer—and what is the defense's case?
Although a number of foreign attorneys have offered their services to Saddam, his defense team is led by Iraqi lawyer Khalil Dulaimi. He is likely to argue that the tribunal has no authority and that under Iraqi law during Saddam's regime, the head of state had immunity from prosecution. He may also challenge the evidence, claiming there is no proof directly linking Saddam to the killings. Says attorney Badee'a Aref Izet, who represents Saddam's codefendant and former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz: "Saddam's lawyer will come to the trial and say that it is totally illegitimate."
7 Will Saddam get the death penalty?
Iraq recently reinstated capital punishment, and has executed several criminals. At least some defense lawyers prefer his odds under the U.S. occupation. "If it was not for the Americans being there, the Iraqis would have killed Saddam already—before the trial," says Izet.
8 What if he's found not guilty?
Even if Saddam is cleared in the Dujail case, he won't just stroll out of prison. He faces trial on several more charges (see box). Any appeal from Saddam would go to a nine-member appellate panel. "This [first] case is a litmus test for the whole new Iraqi justice system," says Malinowski. "The whole world is going to be watching."
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